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Bessie A. Winn-Afeku Headshot

Changing Lives and Futures 34 Degrees South

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Have you ever had that tugging sensation in your heart to help someone? That feeling when you encounter someone who you know desperately and genuinely needs your assistance and there is no way you could leave without helping...but you end up walking away. You go about your day but that feeling returns to you. The feeling that you somehow could have taken just one minute out of your day...and now the "what if's" begin coming to you. What if..you stopped and gave $1.00, What if.. you were able to give about two hours of your time to feed the homeless, or What if...you stopped and waited when someone in need began to approach you for help.

Many times it is the little things we can do to help someone that ultimately changes their life. Now let's look at this on a larger scale. As we watch the news and read the newspaper we hear about natural disasters, poverty, illness, and the fact that there are so many humanitarian issues that we sit back on our couch and want to help...but can't help the way we really want to. What if one day you decided that you were going to go ahead take the leap and help change someone life...and spend the rest of your life doing it? Well, the Grants did just that.

Meet Marshall and Malaka Grant, a married couple living in Atlanta, Georgia with their children. They felt the tug, the calling, the pull, the push...or whatever it is you want to call it that inspires you to create change. For the past couple years, the Grants have wanted to be of service in Africa. But it was not until recently -- about six months ago -- they got the vision and the invitation to go to South Africa to live and to be of service. And ever since then the wheels have been in motion. So what exactly will they be doing in South Africa you ask? Some of the things the Grants will be doing include taking over a Learning Center in Plett (Plettenberg Bay) . They will be handling the day-to-day administrative and educational duties as the new center directors. In addition, they will also be aggressively seeking to build new Learning Centers in other townships and working with youth at the primary school level while providing them with a strong foundation for success. According to UNICEF 2.5 million children are orphaned in South Africa today. With this alarming amount of orphaned children, you can definitely see why a big part of their vision is to also work with and mentor orphaned children. Millions of children and families have been devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa leaving many of the children without proper models. And many of the children also live with aging grandparents or are in the care of siblings who are barely older than they are. The Grant's goal as a family is to engender a sense of community to orphans and at risk children.

When I asked if there was one thing that Malaka and her family would want people to be left with after hearing their story, what would it be she said:

"The thing that we would want to leave people with is that one life can make a difference. I read a quote the other day and it said: 'If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.' Nothing you ever do is too little to make a difference. No amount of time is too small, no gift is too tiny. Even a smile is charity. That's what I'd like people to remember. We want our kids to know that this life is more than just fancy clothes and keeping up appearances. We want them to be true global citizens"

Indeed, you don't necessarily have to pick up all your belongings and move to South Africa. However Marshall and Malaka Grant show us that giving, charity, and social change are without borders.

Learn more about the Grants and follow them on their journey to South Africa.